Parents, MHA officials shell from pockets for hockey players' plane tickets

Parents and Mumbai Hockey Association officials pay from their pockets to send sub-junior team for Nationals after train tickets remained unconfirmed

The smiling faces in this adjoining picture were far from happy around 24 hours before they posed together at the Chhatrapati Shivaji airport in the wee hours of Wednesday.

The Mumbai team pose for a picture at the city’s domestic airport in the wee hours of Wednesday before leaving to participate in the Hockey India Sub-Junior National Championships (May 5-16) in Manipur
The Mumbai team pose for a picture at the city’s domestic airport in the wee hours of Wednesday before leaving to participate in the Hockey India Sub-Junior National Championships (May 5-16) in Manipur

The Mumbai sub-junior boys hockey team that left for Imphal, Manipur to participate in the sixth Hockey India Sub-Junior National Championships from May 5 to 16, almost missed the bus. In this case, the train! But thanks to their parents and some co-operative Mumbai Hockey Association Ltd (MHAL) officials, the lads eventually managed to travel for the tournament via air.

MHAL Hon Secretary Ram Singh RathoreMHAL Hon Secretary Ram Singh Rathore

MHAL Hon Secretary Ram Singh Rathore explained what transpired at their Churchgate office in the last 10 days: “We received intimation from Hockey India that the tournament dates were going to change, so we had to delay the team’s rail ticket bookings. We finally booked the tickets at a discount as the tournament was being conducted by a national sports federation (Hockey India).

Peak season problem
“However, since it’s peak travel season time, our waitlisted tickets did not get confirmed. Worse still, we lost all the money spent here (around Rs 25,000) as there is no refund provision on discounted tickets. We then booked the boys via Tatkal, and called all players to the platform to board the train. But in the final seating list, we had just three confirmations, so we couldn’t board the train. I then wrote to Hockey India to help us send the team to Imphal, but they replied in the negative. We were disappointed and contemplated not sending the team for the tournament.”

The disappointment was more among the players, for whom sporting the Mumbai jersey is the culmination of years of toil across the city’s dwindling hockey grounds. That’s when one of the players’ parents suggested the aerial route. However, the expense was almost 10 times the train fare given the tournament’s remote location.

“We could afford to send this team by air, but we send six teams for national tournaments annually — sub-junior boys & girls, junior boys & girls, senior boys & girls. Obviously, we can’t afford airfare for all of them, so fearing this could set a precedent, I had to turn down parents’ suggestion of us bearing the air expenditure,” said Rathore, who then suggested Plan ‘B’.

The final meeting
“We called for a meeting of the parents and checked who all could afford the airfare. Of the 18 players, the parents of 14 players agreed. I then discussed the issue with our committee members, and some of us chipped in from our own pockets to pay for the remaining four players and manager,” added Rathore. The parents, who were initially upset with MHAL, are now happy to see their boys finally don Mumbai colours.

“We were very angry when we learnt that MHA was not forthcoming with the airfare. But then, they explained their situation to us and we understood. It was nice of the office-bearers to pay from their own pockets,” said one of the player’s parents.
It is learnt that the MHA officials paid around Rs 70,000 for the five tickets and the overall air expenditure was over
Rs 2 lakh. The smiles on the players’ faces in this picture though is priceless!

The squad: Mayur Das (captain), Ankit Chauhan (GK), Manan Dedhia (GK), Jonathan D’Souza, Kartik Bahot, Krunal Gohil, San Peter Nadar, Nitin Dhika, Abhay Tiwari, Abhishay Dayal, Darshan Gawkar, Raj Patil, Bhim Batala, Moiz Shaikh, Deep Mistry, Ayush Shetty, Vipin Kushwaha, Sanjeev Bellary. Kartar Singh (manager)

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